(Reuters) - Roy Hibbert emerged from a deep playoff slump to help rescue the Indiana Pacers as they edged Washington 86-82 on Wednesday to avoid falling behind by two games in the Eastern Conference semi-final.
Hibbert, coming off a Game One performance in which he failed to record a point or rebound, broke through with 28 points and nine rebounds that allowed Indiana to tie the best-of-seven series 1-1.
Indiana’s seven-footer had been under fire for his poor play throughout the post-season and he credited his team for helping him regain form. “Paul (George) took me out on his boat yesterday and we sat there and fished – we didn’t even talk about basketball,” Hibbert told reporters. “My team mates really believed in me. I‘m thankful for such great team mates.”
Things were not as harmonious for the whole game for the top-seeded Pacers, who trailed 77-74 with five minutes to go before answering with a 10-2 run that clinched the contest.
Lance Stephenson hit a 3-pointer with 21.4 seconds left, giving the Pacers a five-point lead. Stephenson finished with 12 points, and guard George Hill scored 14.
Marcin Gortat tallied 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Wizards. Bradley Beal added 17 points and seven assists while point guard John Wall had a second difficult shooting night, making just 2-for-13 from the field.
The Wizards now head home to Washington for Game Three on Friday.
Washington surprised Indiana by jumping on them early in Game One, but it was the turn of the Wizards to be blindsided by Hibbert in the rematch.
“We knew he was going to get touches, no one expected him to score 28,” Gortat said.
“The most important thing is to make sure he’s not going to come back the next game with the same effort.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Nick Mulvenney